Founders Interview: Jack Nikogosian — ARYZE
ARYZE CEO, Jack Nikogosian, gives insight into how the firm was started and the reasons for changing the way you pay, through Digital Cash.
Article by Bogdan Muntean — ARYZE Ambassador
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ARYZE.
We are living in a world where uniqueness has been multiplied by a factor of over 7 billion. Naturally, that defies the creed by which there is one common denominator, a higher authority, a universal truth. Everybody is carrying out their lives the way that they see fit and for each of them, that is the right way of doing it.
That doesn’t mean that we do not have common endeavors — peace, prosperity, kindness, being united. But when it comes to practical concepts — performing financial operations — it is rather difficult to establish on a global way of doing it.
What if I told you that there is a group of people, a company established in Denmark that has the vision of connecting the world on the fundamental level that drives education, politics, economy, innovation, and growth while leveraging emerging technologies? What if I told you that this company has the potential of creating ‘the next big thing’ since the advent of the World Wide Web? A digital version of cash that will allow its users to send and receive funds in an instant without having to worry about transaction fees, banks or governments.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of talking to the leader of this revolutionary initiative, Jack Nikogosian — CEO of ARYZE.
For the past couple of years, ARYZE has been this movement that advocates for transparency, privacy and financial ownership. With the emergence of Cryptocurrencies, Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology, ARYZE is set on the goal of creating a digital version of cash, or how Jack would like to put it, ‘making dumb money smart’.
Having a steady ascension as a Danish FinTech company and winning numerous awards — Best Fintech at Venture Cup 2018, Best Startup at Copenhagen FinTech Week 2018 — you can easily tell that they know what they are doing and that they mean business. With a team that consists of enthusiastic and experienced entrepreneurs, former financial analysts, crypto experts and talented developers ARYZE is set up to create an ecosystem that is built on transparency and trust.
But who is the mind behind ARYZE? Who is ‘Bitcoin’ Jack?
Born in Armenia, having lived in Denmark for most of his life, Jack Nikogosian, started showing interest in the crypto space and FinTech scene around 2013. With a background in marketing, innovation and entrepreneurship he has developed the urge to challenge the conventional means by which we are using money during the time that he spent in Coinify. In April, he was listed in ‘Top 100 talents’ in Denmark and future only will tell us what to expect from his side.
I used to work in a company called Coinify. And that’s where I first got into bitcoin, and then I kind of grew within that company.[…] I was the head of their innovation lab — basically a small department of the company where we were allowed to play around with different concepts outside of the core business.
In 2015, he became internationally known as ‘Bitcoin Jack’ due to an experiment where he lived off for one month with Bitcoin only. Since then, Jack has become an important figure in the Nordic FinTech Scene, has given numerous lectures for companies such as Microsoft, HELLA and Copenhagen Business School, and has acted as a consultant and expert in blockchain and DLT (Distributed Ledger Technologies) for organizations around the world.
Yet it still begs the question: Why start this initiative?
Because the real money, or fiat money, is still difficult to handle digitally. […] And the challenges that we are having today is that you still have to spend fiat money to buy crypto, or use dumb money to buy smart money.
It might sound strange in the context that over 85% of the European adult population has a bank account and a credit card associated with it. However, ARYZE has as vision to eliminate third parties and lower the transaction fees to that of a fraction while creating a common denominator in terms of payment and financial solution. Which is to be applied for individuals, as well as for companies.
My hope is that we end up creating a kind of barter economy, where I pay you in whatever I want to pay you in, and you receive whatever you want to receive. I can say, you know, to Siri, or Alexa, pay rent in gold. And it should just sell my digital gold and pay rent to my landlord. And if my landlord wants to receive dollars, then I can say ‘Alexa convert to dollars.’
However, in the context of such a revolutionary approach, it is not uncommon to meet resistance and skepticism. People have difficulties adopting a solution that they don’t know anything about. Moreso when that solution lives in a cloud. In the end, it all comes down to adoption and willingness to understand that there is a better, smarter, more secure way of making financial transactions. And it has to go both ways — individuals and financial service providers alike.
We’re not here to disrupt, but to reform. We’re here to build the necessary bridges that will make the current financial ecosystems evolve so they’re able to fully utilize the potential of a digital tomorrow.
Safe to say that while leveraging Blockchain and DLT in order to create new market sectors, ARYZE does not wish for the current sectors to become extinct; instead it just tries to update them to the technologies that have emerged in the past 10 years, providing the tools and infrastructure that they can build on, without being constrained by a monopolizing entity.
What is ARYZE? What does the company provide?
So simply said, we wanted to create a digital version of cash so that real money can be as agile and fluent as crypto money. […] In the beginning we had so many cool ideas: micropayment solutions, location based solutions and financial products. […] I thought I’ll build none of them. Let’s just build the currency that would enable everybody else to build their own, whether that is a government white label solution, or an oil token — let people build their own. But let us provide the platform, the means, the tools.
This approach is ingenious for several good reasons: for one, ARYZE does not want to create a product that has to be used by everybody — their vision is to create a platform which allows people and institutions to build on top of their technologies and tools. Then it tackles both individuals and company — that way, ARYZE will be creating an ecosystem that allows all parties to send and receive funds, no matter the currency, nationality or business model. Lastly, it uses blockchain and DLT — being able to achieve transparency, security and privacy.
All these factors are truly remarkable, but the best part is yet to come: ARYZE is a rapid environment that has been benefiting from the popularity and extent of the Internet, enabling the company to receive numerous awards and fulfill spectacular goals. In January 2018, ARYZE has finished their ICO (Initial Coin Offering) and private sale which raised about 10 million Danish kroner — in the first successful ICO on Danish soil — at a rather pivotal moment for crypto.
We closed our first funding in January, which itself was a big, big milestone, because it was one of the bloodiest months of crypto history.[…] For us raising money from Denmark without telling anybody was a huge challenge because we followed the production rules. It was a private session. No marketing, no public white papers, no nothing.
At this very moment, they are writing their white paper that is to be released later on this year to the general public and while they are building the infrastructure for digital cash, the company has in the works a mobile financial product called MAMA — Multi-Asset-Modular-App — to be released globally in 2020.
What are the reasons behind the choice of conducting business on Danish soil?
For several reasons, but primarily to keep our Danish identity. And what I mean by that is that in Denmark, we have respect for some values. Gender equality, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, all of these elements that other companies have to kind of buy to tell the story. It will be given when you’re a Danish company, […] Denmark has been for a long time stable financially, in the sense that we’re a small country. So we stayed digital. And we keep innovating. And so it is somewhat trusted. […] we wanted to do our first fundraising from where we stood.
Moreover, Denmark can be proud to be called an ‘early adopter’ in regards to technological innovation and progress. With an adult population that is more or less 100% banked and the national currency being over 95% digital already, having the company established in Denmark made sense. As Jack says, the country is not big, having a bit over 5 million people within its boundaries, yet it incentivises for a well informed and close knit community.
And speaking of community, ARYZE sees the value and potential in creating a community that supports, understands and advocates for the same principles as they do. As part of the company’s CSR, they have started the Ambassadors program which has as purpose spreading the word that such a company exists, informing different social layers of better ways that they can fulfil their financial transactions and carry out with their daily chores.
The Ambassadors are a group of people which come from different cultural background but that share the same vision as ARYZE: digitizing cash and creating a better tomorrow. The aim is to have Ambassadors spread around the globe and that can establish and extend ARYZE’s reach.
One aspect of ARYZE struck me as particularly interesting when researching them and that is the choice of — in the context of it being a young FinTech company — abiding by the rules of a hierarchical organization. What is the reason behind that?
It’s a good point that many startups have a very flat hierarchies. And so did we, in the beginning, […] but now the fact is that we are understanding what we’re building on a whole different scale. We’re operating in one the most bureaucratic spaces — in market, money, finances — where everything is regulated, everything has to be on such a high level of compliance, that you simply need a managerial team.
I have been in different startups and young organizations for the past three years, most of them having around 2 years old, and seeing how ARYZE is approaching this subject, their whole organizational structure and how information flows through the company is a proof of the maturity of the parties involved in this initiative. They understand what they are building, for whom they are building and how to build it. This aspect goes hand in hand with the management’s ability to respond to change — be it on an internal or external level.
There is no cookbook that gives you the solution to your problem. After all, that is why entrepreneurs are seen as the bright minds and inventors of the 21st century. They are responding to change with change, they adapt, overcome obstacles and in the process create something that was never done before — this is what ARYZE is doing at this very moment, while you are reading this article. And it is truly inspiring. Thinking that it all started not so long ago with an existential conversation somewhere in Tel Aviv, it progressed to being a startup which had their office in an apartment, and now being acknowledged as the solution to the problems that today’s society is having.
I want to get back to you, and your entrepreneurial journey… What are the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur? Is there any advice that you could give to aspiring entrepreneurs and individuals?
One of the best things is that you feel like an inventor, an artist if you will. Creating something that didn’t exist before. And that is pretty cool. You had an idea, a vision. And then it exists, and then there is the alpha, beta and all of a sudden you are on the market. […] But I guess that’s also one of the worst things, because you are building something that doesn’t exist. So you cannot just Google the answer. And it’s extremely stressful. To have a mission, people depending on you — investors and advisory boards alike — and to know that all the weight rests on your shoulders.
It is not just about having an idea, it is also about seeing it through. It is about going into uncharted territory and creating something unique that has the power of changing the world to some degree. It is clear to me now that everything that Jack has achieved, that ARYZE has achieved, is the result of countless hours of work, many meetings, sleepless nights and an insurmountable amount of dedication.
Not everyone has to be a CEO to be an entrepreneur.
Not everybody that has an idea should be leading. But it is our duty as is our right to materialize it. It is what brought us to this level of technological, sociological and financial advance and it is what should motivate us to continue and do so. Jack advises all entrepreneurs and individuals:
‘If you have an idea and you believe in it… Just do it. You can try out a lot of stuff without committing to it fully.’
When asked if he would change anything about his entrepreneurial journey, Jack answered simply that he wouldn’t change a single thing.
I don’t have regrets like that. I think that I am still 28. My thought is that if I didn’t make it, then it was not for me to make. […] Everything that happened until now brought me to this point in life and I truly believe that ARYZE will make it.
About the author
Bogdan is a budding developer currently doing a bachelor’s degree with emphasis on Software Design, Software Construction, Project Management, Operating systems and Computer Architecture, Networking and Database management. He is originally from Romania and has been in Denmark since 2016. He also did a stint in Canada where he managed to start a company and get hired by another one, all while doing a semester abroad.
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